I’ve been teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for– amazingly- almost 10 years now. This has given me an opportunity to develop my own teaching methods as time has gone on, of course. It’s also given me an excellent chance to see the different ways students themselves learn. My own class structure at my gym has evolved as a result of this, and I am always asking the question: is this good for the students? In that simple idea is the basis for making any school great.
On the way to figuring this out, I had to overcome at least one major obstacle: personal ego. As a purple belt, teaching a BJJ class for the first time (I had taught judo before that, but never BJJ), I felt a need to show off how much information I knew. I had always been impressed by jiu jitsu instructional videos that really broke down the thought process behind why the moves worked, and I tried to convey that same awe upon my students at first. I think the approach can be useful and can catch some very analytically-minded students. A very small handful may benefit the most from this method, but the majority of students will simply be bored.
Therein lies the first real innovation: students have to enjoy the technique portion of class as well as learn something from it. As an instructor, you are half teacher and half performer. Engage the interest of your students with a fast paced class, and you’ll have a much more productive use of time. Don’t focus in on every single detail of every single position, or face losing the interest of more than half of the class. Instead, pick one or two key details and point them out to the group. You can always make corrections later, if need be.
This thought process has allowed the curriculum and class format at Revolution BJJ to reflect these changes. Our 7:30 PM BJJ class, for example, starts with a warm up of rolling for about an hour. This is ideal for the students there, because the belt level average is about purple, or somewhere in between blue and purple, depending on which random day you sample. Because of the presence of so many upper belts, the class format means that they get in a lot of rolling, no unnecessary warm ups, and fast paced, advanced technique after the warm up.
At 6:00 AM, on the other hand, there are fewer students there, and several of them are typically white belts (although there is a healthy mix of blue, purple, and brown belts regularly at 6:00 AM. It makes a great deal of sense to cater the class format so that the white belts get a lot of value from the training, considering that the purple and brown belts will get value out of a more fundamental lesson, whereas the white belts might not pick up too much from a berimbolo, for instance. 6 AM class isn’t going to begin with an extremely vigorous warm up, either, since most of the students are literally still waking up. Instead, a more manageable format of 40 minutes of technique followed by 20 minutes of rolling benefits beginners and experienced students alike.
2 PM on Wednesday is appropriately named our “nonstop rolling class.” That’s the entire class, and it’s extremely beneficial to anyone who has been training for five or more years. It’s also an excellent supplement for the more athletic, less experienced grapplers who are already meeting their technical needs with other classes.
Finally, our 8 week intro class uses a completely different format. It’s catered towards those who are first starting BJJ, with little or no previous experience, and there are at least 12 intro students with each cycle of the program, so the instruction is brisk and minimal, with just enough information given out so that the student can sketch out an idea and grasp the overall concept of the position. This unique blend of fast pace and concise instruction gives the novice student exactly what they need in order to move forward into the Fundamentals program at Revolution BJJ, and doesn’t bog anyone down with unnecessary extra details. This program has proven extremely successful in preparing students for the next step.
It’s only with the right approach to teaching that you can be truly successful with a broad student base. The class format has to cater towards what the students really need from a lesson, not what you would like to hear yourself teach. Everything falls into place once that maxim is understood and appreciated.